Working Visually: Why Service Design & Visualization is Your Key to Success

Why Service Design & Visualization is Your Key to Success

By Caleb Sexton, Principal Digital Strategist, Throughline, Inc.

Welcome to Throughline’s inaugural LinkedIn newsletter, where we will explore the benefits of working visually. In this issue, we focus on how service design and visualization can transform customer experiences and drive revenue growth.

In today’s competitive landscape, customers have countless choices and experience is king. Therefore, it is critical for public and private organizations to build customer-centric cultures and strategies. Customer centricity places your consumer, user or customer at the heart of the business and aligns systems, operations, processes and practices around their needs. While many organizations focus heavily on customer needs, this may not translate to results if they do not first establish a common customer experience lens and language. Without these, customers are likely to face siloed, disjointed experiences that leave them frustrated. Enter Service Design!  

Service Design: A Holistic Methodology

A key approach to customer-centric transformation is the service design methodology. Service design applies human-centered design, ethnographic research and strategy to form a holistic view of the customer, their needs and their end-to-end service experience. This practice choreographs complex systems that engage internal and external stakeholders to co-create more meaningful and innovative solutions.

To better understand service design, consider a metaphorical slice of cake. The cake’s layers include existing organizational operations, processes and practices; physical, digital and marketing touchpoints; and current innovation initiatives and strategies. Upward and downward flows of data and information meet between each layer to feed and support each effort, while the outer layer of icing is the customer’s total experience with an organization.

Driving Change within a Service-Oriented Organization

Navigating change across any organization has its challenges, but service design provides tools and practices to ensure success. Fundamentally, service design leverages strategy, research and design to guarantee a holistic view of both the customer and the organization. A few of those methods are outlined below to illustrate the value of design and research practices in customer-centric transformation.

Tools and Practices

Customer Journey Maps

Journey maps illustrate the customer’s complete end-to-end experience—from initial awareness and purchase to continued renewal and usage. By rating customer satisfaction at key touchpoints, the journey map seeks to understand the peaks and valleys that a customer may encounter throughout their experience with a brand and identify potential opportunities for improvement.

Service Blueprints

A service blueprint takes the journey map a step further and aligns business processes (both internal and external), systems, data and metrics to better define customer pain points and identify opportunities for change. It additionally helps an organization understand how each of its divisions and teams aligns in support of the given customer across their experience.

Listening Posts & Metrics Audits

Listening posts seek to establish and assess key points along the customer journey that increase opportunities to receive customer feedback. Audits of existing listening posts and metrics can provide ample opportunities to mine voice of the customer (VOC) data, such as online surveys and site analytics.

Customer Immersion

Customer immersion can take many forms—from shadowing and diary studies to deeper ethnographic and qualitative methods — to understand a customer’s existing needs thoroughly and empathetically. The use of immersion techniques within an organization can empower internal stakeholders to act on a shared and consistent view of the customer. It can also help them uncover new opportunities and identify solutions to meet customer needs or mitigate pain points.

Co-creating Change

Co-creation is a powerful approach to the design and implementation of change within an organization. Unlike focus groups, which seek to gather knowledge, co-creation brings relevant internal and external stakeholders and customers together to ideate, prototype and test possible solutions. Co-creation can help frame strategies, identify new ideas, test concepts with customers and validate internal change initiatives. For many organizations, it can act as both an engine for innovation and a platform for customers and internal staff to influence tangible organizational change.

For our long-time client the United States Postal Service, we were able to bring the different elements listed here into a video that envisions the future of CX.

The Value of Design and Customer-Centric Organizations

Organizations that apply a customer-centric structure and use design to deliver new and innovative offerings stand to gain great value. This can be seen in the Design Management Institute's (DMI) Design Index—a market index of companies hailed as design-driven firms. This collection of 15 companies (Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Nike, etc.) that cross both product and service market spaces is annually compared to the S&P 500. When compared over a 10-year period, design-centric organizations provided an average return of 228% growth relative to the steady S&P index. Building upon DMI’s study and others, McKinsey & Company also looked at the design practices of 300 companies over a five-year period. They found design-centric organizations outperformed their counterparts by as much as two to one.

While these studies do not account for all design-centric firms, they do provide a lens into the market share value and large return on investment that design can provide across a wide range of industries and sectors.

So, as you think about how your organization can better deliver value, consider the impact service design could have for your customers and employees. We regularly employ these principles at Throughline, and I am always happy to chat on how we might be able to help organizations address their largest and most complex challenges.

Until next time,

Caleb Sexton, Principal Digital Strategist